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Insights from Jan-Harald Fuchs, BAI’s Group HR Director

23 May 2022

This month’s insights from our leaders around the world comes from Jan-Harald Fuchs, BAI’s Group HR Director. Jan works with leaders across our business to support them and their teams on people and organisation requirements, to support our growth plans.

Jan is an engineer by background and spent his early career at Lucent and subsequently Vodafone. Later moving into HR, he held a variety of HR roles within Vodafone including most recently Manging Director & Head of HR of Vodafone Group Services GmbH based in Germany.

What’s the most important development happening in our industry and what does that mean for business?

Looking at the communications industry in general, I’d say 5G Open RAN can be very disruptive and driving innovation across industries as it commoditises setting up private networks. Based on this platform we see an increasing number of relevant industry vertical solutions driven by an equally fast-growing ecosystem of solution providers. Perhaps soon we’ll even be able to buy a ‘network in a box’ and some apps (depending on your industry or company-specific requirements) and connect these additionally to a process analytics tool.

What inspires you most in the work that you do?

I believe that creating value for customers is everything. If you take the approach that activities are only ‘real work’ if they create value for customers, things can really change in many organisations. We can challenge every email, every PowerPoint slide and every meeting, and question whether it is ‘real work’. If it is not real work then we can call it ‘business theatre’; it looks like work, everyone “playing his or her role” but it doesn’t actually improve anything for customers. So, I am inspired by making it easy for individuals and teams to create that value for our customers and continuously challenge anything that doesn’t help.’

A good example of how we are making it easy to create value within BAI is by building on the outstanding expertise that we have within the company to provide great solutions elsewhere, such as setting up our new BAI Italia team and growing our business in Italy. I like the analogy of working together in the same garage; we should all be in a virtual garage, in which people with the most relevant expertise or skills support the most relevant projects where they can create the biggest impact.

What is a technique you use to be more effective in your work?

Saying it with a smile, I believe that “thinking” is a great technique to be effective and seems to fall short lately across politics, business and even social life. Thinking – taking time, focusing on just one key question or topic, properly thinking through potential options and their ripple effects, discussing it with colleagues with diverse backgrounds from all angles and coming to a well-thought through conclusion – really can become an art.

What’s one of the ongoing challenges you face at work and how do you manage it?

I believe that many organisations have a tendency to create unnecessary ‘stuff’, a tendency to become corporate without value creation, and a tendency for crystallisation, which is the opposite of being adaptive and flexible. My challenge every day is how we make sure we don’t become a crystal but instead how we can focus on what really creates value.

What is your advice for proactively managing your career?

You are the CEO of your own company, and therefore think about how your business evolves and whether it makes you happy. During my career I have seen too many senior leaders who were extremely successful yet extremely unhappy at the same time. As they focused on their career progression and on their important roles in their ‘business theatre’, they neglected their family, their friends, their health and sometimes even their integrity. Sometimes they woke up in the middle of a major crisis and questioning their decisions in the past.

I strongly advise everyone to read the book “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clay Christensen and become more strategic and honest about what is really important in their life and their career.

Who has been the greatest influence on your career and why?

Our parents are often some of our greatest influences, be it in a positive or negative way. In my case, this was in a positive way.

My father was born in 1940. He finished Realschule (equivalent to GCSE qualifications in the UK) and became an apprentice bricklayer and learned how to build walls, houses and bridges. He then studied at a Fachhochschule, a technical college, to become an engineer for street building. He became a civil servant and managed an agency for building and maintaining streets.

He thoroughly learned his job, right through from the absolute basics, and continued that learning throughout his career. He understood how things work within all levels of the organisation. He knew what mattered.

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